Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Originally I intended this post to be centered around the ACT and maintaining the momentum for continued study. But it's final exam time and I'm finding many students who have the same problem that I had in school. By this point in the semester, I was feeling like I had learned enough and wanted desperately to start summer vacation as early as possible -- maybe even during history class tomorrow!!

Final exams are vital, however, for keeping a high semester grade or raising a mediocre one. So let's explore some ways to bolster the energy to prepare for the possibly-most-important test of the entire year.

1. SUCCESS is the greatest motivator known. Start the study plan with a baseline measurement of your abilities. It might be results of previous tests, the first pass through the Final Exam Study Guide, or the review questions at the end of each chapter covered.

Assess progress frequently and remind yourself that you are striving for consistent, incremental improvement. You don't expect or even WANT immediate perfection because it will be difficult to sustain over the next 2 weeks.

Keep track of improvements by setting up a chart of results.

2. Success will motivate only when it is recognized. Set reasonable benchmark goals. Plan celebrations for reaching these targets. Enlist the assistance of others around you like parents or teachers who are genuinely interested in your improvement. High fives, a special dessert, a start on the progress chart, or a test hung on the refrigerator are ocmmon forms of congratulations. And don't forget the smaller self-congratulatory efforts: count "perfect pages" on an assignment; shout out when you finally defeat a difficult question; take a moment to recognize your achievements.

3. Admit temporary setbacks, but continue moving forward even if in smaller steps. Say you had planned to work on the English Final packet on Saturday morning but you oversleep and only have 30 minutes before you need to leave for work. This is a setback, but not an insurmountable hurdle. Decide to spend 15 minutes working on the homework now and another 45 minutes after work but before going out with friends. Do not skip the study session but, instead, reconfigure it to meet the situation at hand. And don't forget to congratulate yourself for remarkable problem-solving ability and commitment to succeed.

4. Count your blessings, not your failures. If a homework assignment goes badly and you get a terrible score, count the number correct instead of counting the number wrong. Think about the circumstances that lowered your ability to do your best work and consider ways to avoid the problem in the future. Did the phone ring a thousand times while you were trying to work? Then put the phone on vibrate and stuff it in the linen closet until you're finished with the assignment. Did your little sibling have a minor meltdown at the kitchen table while you were studying tere? Then move to a quiet room and put a sign on the door -- "INCREDIBLY INTELLIGENT STUDENT WORKING HERE!" Do not accept excusdes, just take appropriate action to eliminate the problem and congratulate yourself for creativity in the face of difficulty.

5. Try the "Count Down Method" of motivation. I use this one frequently. Take an almost empty roll of toilet paper and number the sheets backwards. If there are 19 days left until summer break, number the first sheet 19, the second 18, etc. Tear off one sheet each day and you'll be "counting down" to the beginning of vacation. I also repeat the following mantra whenever necessary........I can do ANYTHING for 19 more days!.......I can do ANYTHING for 18 more days!....I can do ANYTHING for 17 more days....16 more days...15 more days.....14 more days.....

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